Komen CEO Addresses Group in Lubbock

Komen CEO Addresses Group in Lubbock

Every case of breast cancer is individualized and within the next five to 10 years, Dr. Judith Salerno expects treatment to become more individualized, too.

During her speech at the International Cultural Center on Wednesday, Salerno, CEO and president of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, spoke about the past, present and future of breast cancer treatment and research.

Approximately 30 people, including local media, attended the free event.

When Nancy Brinker began the foundation in 1982, little was known about the disease and few resources were available for her sister, Susan G. Komen, Salerno said.

Salerno said people used to believe breast cancer was contagious, she said.

“There were no breast cancer treatment centers like there are now,” she said. “The resources just weren’t there.”

Neither was the knowledge of individualized breast cancer strains, said Dr. Candy Arentz, associate professor at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, chairman of the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen Lubbock board member.

“We’ve known that there were different types of breast cancer,” Arentz said. “We haven’t had the best treatments.”

Arentz said breast cancer used to be treated according to the stage it was discovered.

“Now each person can fight their own cancer,” she said. “We really try to get in the immune system and try to identify what’s different in the cancer and in the patient.”

This feat would be nearly impossible without funding from the Komen Foundation, Salerno said.

She said 75 percent of money raised thought Komen chapters stays in the community in which it was raised. The other 25 percent goes to the national foundation.

Approximately 1.3 million people participate in Komen races worldwide and have helped raise $847 million for breast cancer research, she said.

Salerno said rates of breast cancer prevalence have declined since 1990 due, in part, to actions through the Komen Foundation. Five-year survival rates are now about 99 percent, she said.

Salerno said she has hope that they’ll only get better.

As a doctor, Salerno said she’s seen “a lot of cancer.”

In one particular case, the oldest breast cancer patient Salerno treated had a recurrence after 30 years, she said.

“The oldest breast cancer patient I’ve treated was 103 years old, which shows that we’ve really done stuff with longevity,” Salerno said.

The next step is building onto precision medical care and working to understand and help aid socioeconomic barriers to care, Salerno said.

Jana Hunter, executive director of Komen Lubbock, said the Lubbock Komen chapter has partnered with local health organizations to bridge some of those gaps in care by providing programs like the mobile mammography unit, which is also sponsored by Covenant Health.

The local Komen chapter serves 16 counties, she said.

“They can physically take mammography screening services to those outlying towns,” Hunter said.

The mobile mammography unit helps provide screening opportunities to people beyond Lubbock County, she said.

Salerno said: “I just hope Lubbock not only continues what they’re doing, but continues to bring it to the next level and come out and support the things that will make a difference for women in this community.”